"Part memoir and part roadmap to success, Pure Poultry tells a compelling story full of grit, passion and discovery as the author and her husband embrace a sustainable, off grid life in the woods – with chickens, turkeys and ducks. Whether you are a seasoned fowl keeper or a passionate dreamer, you will find yourself nodding, laughing, commiserating, learning and simply enjoying the author’s knack for weaving her experiences, observations and lessons into a page-turner of a narrative. Once I started reading, it was next to impossible to put Pure Poultry down, even when I heard my own geese honking for their supper. And when I finally closed the book, for the last time, I knew exactly why I keep the fowl that I do, I learned some tricks I’d not discovered in the past 35 years and I felt happy!"
-Endorsement from Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief, Grit magazine
Big news, Pure Poultry fans! I just this morning sent the last few minor manuscript corrections to the publisher, who is poised to send it to press. I've been thinking a lot about all that's happened throughout this process. It's still hard to believe that it's been less than a year since I first met Ingrid Witvoet (managing editor of New Society Publishers) at the Mother Earth News Fair in Pennsylvania last September. You don't mind of I indulge in a bit of a nostalgia trip, do you?
I had first come up with the idea of a book about our experiences with heritage poultry back in 2009. I pulled a book off my shelf that was on a roughly similar topic, found the name of the publisher, and thought, what the heck, I'll call. (This was before, I may say LONG before, I heard the rule that you're not supposed to cold-call publishers. Ooops.) The publisher, I learned, published about 300 new titles a year, so it made sense to me to call and ask for the name and contact information for the editor who handled livestock-related projects.
So I called and left a voicemail. About 15 minutes later (I'm not kidding) I got a call back, spoke to the editor for 20 minutes, and she invited me to send her my proposal. (Another harsh lesson: Don't pitch a book project without a proposal package ready to send.) I agreed, not that I knew anything at the time about what was even in a proposal package.
It took me several months to get it done. Partly this was because I had periodic spells of completely losing confidence in myself. Eventually I did send it in, though, complete with sample photos.
Then I waited. And waited. Every so often I sent a note to the editor, asking for a status update. No response. Seven months later, I finally heard back from her. Unfortunately, by that time, she was working in a different department and no longer dealt with books like mine. So that was that, at least for the moment.
Right around the same time, I got a call from James Duft at Mother Earth News, asking if I'd be interested in doing a presentation on raising turkeys at the Mother Earth News Fair. My first reaction was to decline, having pretty much zero experience in public speaking. My husband David, though, said I ought to do it because it might help with my book project somehow. So I did, repeating to myself right up until I went on stage my favorite mantra: "I only have to do this for the first time ONCE."
Shortly after my first presentation I met Pamela Art, the president of Storey Publishing. She let me pitch my idea to her and then asked me to send her my proposal. I did, and got a note back from another Storey editor saying that it would be a "long shot" for them as they rarely published memoirs.
I was totally taken aback. I know this sounds silly, but at the time I had no idea that what I was writing was a memoir. Sure, I was writing it in first person, and it is entirely based on our own experiences, but I honestly thought it was more of a how-to book.
At that point I felt discouraged, and didn't really know what I was doing with the book. So I put it aside and did nothing with it for about a year. In the meantime, I continued to do presentations at Mother Earth News Fairs.
The third time I went to the Fair, last September in Seven Springs, PA, I did two presentations. After the second one, late in the day on Sunday, I was approached by a woman who introduced herself as an editor from New Society Publishers. She asked me if I had ever thought about writing a book about poultry.
After I got home, I updated my proposal and sent it to her. This was in October 2012. On December 19, after not hearing back from her for about two months, I got an e-mail with a draft contract attached. New Society Publishers wanted to publish my book!
The contract set a date of February 1, 2013, as the deadline to submit the manuscript. I asked for it to be extended to February 15, which they agreed to. I still didn't know if I could do it, mostly because I had no clear idea of how much of the book was already written. I went at it, though, ultimately sending in the manuscript a day ahead of the deadline.
Since then it's been an amazing learning experience. I read somewhere that writers need to know that writing is an art, but publishing is a business. Of course I still have a lot to learn, but the people at New Society Publishers have been so helpful, and patient with my constant questions. I've been included in just about every part of the process, from cover design to proofreading. When all is said and done, it will have been barely a year from when I first met Ingrid to when Pure Poultry comes off the press.
Looking back, I am so grateful that the first publisher I contacted didn't accept my project. I honestly believe it is a much better book now, thanks to another couple of years of experience, a supportive husband and friends, and a publisher who somehow picked me out of a crowd.
I'm 52 now, and although I've had ideas in the past about writing, I never tried seriously to get anything published. Now my first real publishing credit is a book! And the publisher and I have been talking about additional book projects, too.
How much has happened in just a year? For one thing, I now know I'm a writer.